I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto…
This is definitely not a pair of headphones you want to stick into a youngsters iPod. Not that you would really have that problem… Really. To make an analogy the Beats headphones from Monster could be considered the Lamborghini Countach of cans: very pretty, but about as useful for everyday driving as a condom in a nunnery, while the Beyerdynamic DT-150 would be your Volvo 245 from the mid 70s. If you have never seen a 245 then let me put it to you this way. Think of the boxiest car you can imagine, make it a cumbersomely large station wagon, and, finally, paint it with your choice of snot green, poo brown or phlegm orange. The Volvo 245 was never the prettiest car on the road, nor was it the fastest, but it held a lot and was enough to get you from point A to B. Also, have you ever seen one of them break down? Neither have I.
And, that is basically what the DT150 is. The design of this pair of cans has changed little from its predecessor, the legendary DT-100 that ruled the recording studios of the 1980s (you probably saw more than a few of these used as props in movies from that era). It is still as ugly as ever, but Beyerdynamic have seemingly addressed some of the issues that were apparent in its original incarnation. Whether or not that warranted a completely new model is open to debate; I, for one, am sitting on the fence about it.
Spartan is a theme that strikes you as you crack open the smallish cardboard box (small considering the price range these headphones find themselves in). Inside its flimsy exterior is an equally flimsy usage manual. The headphones, themselves, are all on their lonesome, with no extra packaging cradling them, the 1/8″ to 1/4″ screw in adapter and the chunky straight 3m cable (which comes with a screw if you dont intend to remove the cable from its socket anytime soon). Not that they would need that much protection.
Which brings me to their design and build, the DT150 has lost none of the utilitarian charm and ruggedness of the DT100 (if you haven’t already guessed, my opinion on style vs. function is that style is for wusses). The ear pads are now thicker to create more distance between the drivers and your ears, the headband is slightly thinner, and they now sport an all-black dithered finish. It’s almost as if Beyerdynamic thought that simply making the treads a bit wider and painting it black would be enough to herald in the new era of the Sherman Tank of its headphone line (reminds me of the late night commercials where a phoenix company would unveil its newest old product, “now in black!”).
I call it the Sherman Tank of its headphone lineup because no other headphone coming from Beyerdynamic, or arguably, anywhere else, has had so much go into its durability and finish. Every part feels as if it was built to withstand a nuclear attack, and the peices that do fall to the wayside are all modular and replaceable. Shear the cable? No problem, order another and plug it back in. Snap the headband? Also not a problem, pull off the sleeve and cups and slide another one in. Break the actual driver itself!? Well apart from it starting to look like you’re a bit accident prone, you can order another one from Beyerdynamic, plug it in and slide it back onto the headband. This, on paper, is THE perfect pair of cans to wear onto set. When you are bound to come across some dangerous environments, undoubtedly, these will weather the storm better than you will.
Although what I am saying applied to the DT100s as well, not that much needed to be changed in my opinion, although its relatively low key presence on the internet indicates that users of these cans either love it or hate it, although those that hate them, I would argue, haven’t used them long enough or just completely misunderstand them. For me, the cavernous design hugs my ample moon shaped head well. Its heft is, while not as comfortable as the AKG K 271 MKIIs, are by no means posture destroying, and this provides me with the assurance that they are built to last (seriously though, if these are too heavy for your head you actually might want to get your neck and spine checked). Finally the larger pleather ear-pads are super comfy, albeit, they tend to get a bit sweaty from prolonged use, which brings me to the final, and, arguably, most important facet of any pair of cans.
The larger ear-pads have been a sticking point in many a critic of the DT150s online. Some hate them, preferring the smaller ear-pads of the DT100s, others love the extra luxury they offer (like me). But it isn’t simply a comfort factor, and the larger ear-pads show a careful attention to detail by Beyerdynamic. See, one of the drawbacks of the original DT100 was the fact that, while they picked out dialogue, vocals and higher pitched instruments, the bass response was… well… wimpy. It is clear that the DT150s have received a healthy lumping of bass this time around, and how do thicker ear-pads help with this? Well, apart from providing excellent isolation (approximately -18dB), the thicker ear-pads remove the ear from being so close to the driver. This provides a couple of benefits. Firstly it allows the beefier bass response air to “flesh itself out”, which is demonstrated by the very apparent punchiness of it upon listening, and, secondly, it allows for the creation of a expansive soundstage – stereo sounds like stereo and not just a pair of speakers pressed up against your ears.
However, that being said, if you feel that Pioneer or Monster “Beats” headphones are your idea of what is a portable hi-fi experience, then these headphones are probably not for you (and, also, you are a bit of an idiot… to be fair). These headphones would be considered one of the very best… if it was the 1980s, but with the rise of the bass and volume wars, these suckers will probably not provide you with the “doof doof” you like, especially considering, at 250 Ohms resistance, you need to plug them into an amp just to get the full nominal SPL, so it would be unlikely you would get the full experience if they are being juiced by your iPod Touch (which would make your “rappin’ beats” (is that what you call them these days?) seem a bit anaemic) although more powerful devices such as mixers (which will be where I primarily use them) will power them fully with no problem.
But, make no mistake, these cans are far from wimpy, they’re still a Sherman Tank, it’s just the driver likes to listen to the climax of Beethovens 9th on loop. And that’s exactly what they are. They are still built like a brick, the bass is still punchy, but the overall experience is still nuanced, and the low-end does not overpower. That being said, however, compared to my K 271 MKIIs they are much more… meaty (you could say darker)… Think of the K 271 MKIIs as a McChicken burger, while the DT150s are a double Quarter Pounder with extra ketchup. It’s still a burger, as opposed to a greasy mess, it’s just “more” burger.
Long story short, if you like durable headphones, that produce enough oomph to rival cracking thunder, but not the woofiness of rolling thunder, these may be for you. Keep in mind, however, to get the full experience, you will need to plug it into something that can overcome that 250 Ohm barrier.
I might follow this up once these have had a good going over on-set. For now I am content to continue burning these babies in on a steady diet of Iron & Wine (the band, no I don’t literally feed it bits of metal and alcoholic beverages).